Internet of Things

Re-evaluating the need for 'I' in IoT

Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

There are expected to be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020, but researchers don't have a useful way to describe and categorize elements of the internet of things.

Jeffrey Voas, a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said the phrase "network of things" offers a better way to understand connected devices and their security challenges. NoT describes a connected system -- whether the "things" communicate only with internal networks or the internet.

"You can have a network of things without the internet," Voas said at the July 25 Connected Government event hosted by FCW. He is the author of NIST Special Publication 800-183, which describes the concept behind such networks and characterizes them by five building blocks:

  • Electronic sensors that monitor environments and physical properties.
  • Aggregators that handle the data and break it down into something
  • Communication channels that transmit the data.
  • External utilities such as software and hardware products and services.
  • Decision triggers, which create the final output.

Additionally, six elements help determine the trustworthiness of a NoT: environment, cost, geographic location, owner, device ID and snapshot in time.

Those elements and building blocks make it possible to define, measure and compare components of a network.

The network of things is not a new concept, but it is becoming increasingly important now that so many small, inexpensive, third-party devices are being connected, Voas said. The concept and vocabulary will help researchers understand how to secure large networks.

About the Author

Ben Berliner is a former editorial fellow at FCW. He is a 2017 graduate of Kenyon College, and has interned at the Center for Responsive Politics and at Sunlight Foundation.

He can be contacted at [email protected].

Click here for previous articles by Berliner.


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